Photos by Rome City Schools
Educators at the Rome City Schools’ Phoenix Learning Center (PLC) often follow their graduates long after they leave the classroom, and this connection to the school can be the difference in students stalling or continuing to move forward towards their goals.
Diana Cisneros was searching for a way to continue her education after she discovered that she was expecting a child. Navigating high school can be tough for students even if they are dealing with the normal pressures of being a teen, and she knew that she would need to seek another path if she wanted to graduate high school.
“I was determined to not be a drop out,” Cisneros said when recalling what led her to Rome’s PLC program. “Having seven periods in a conventional high school setting was going to be hard and I knew I would probably not make it. I had doctor’s appointments during my pregnancy, and after having a child you have to figure out who is going to watch him. Also, I felt like the social pressures of being pregnant while in high school would have become too much for me and I did not want to get a GED. I wanted my high school diploma because I wanted it for my child. I wanted to offer him more and I wanted to show him what it means to work hard for something.”
Cisneros was able to work through her pregnancy at the PLC and the school even accommodated her schedule after the baby was born. “I would work at school when I could, and I would go home and continue to study,” she recalled about her journey to graduating. “In March of 2015, I was able to graduate and I could not have done it without the help of everyone here at the PLC.”
Then a new mother, she said that her support system at Rome PLC became more like a family than school. Ms. (Gail) Veal, Mr. Dunn, Mr. Sweeney, Ms. Teasley and Ms. Jennifer Perkins, Principal at Rome Transitional Academy and PLC were key in helping to develop a plan for her success. “They were, and still are, my foundation because when you have a family that is pushing you to become better, and they all believe in you, it makes a big impact on what you feel like you are able to accomplish. I knew I could not let those people
down because it would not only be a disappointment to them. It would also be a disappointment for me,” Cisneros said.
After graduating, Cisneros was asked to join the team at Coosa Valley Credit Union where she said they have built their business on a strong sense of family, as well. She has worked with the organization for the past four years. “Since we work very hard to serve our members, we feel that it is important to create a culture of kindness within the organization,” she said.
That level of service and the will to succeed did not go unnoticed. Gregory Wooten, Executive Director and CEO of Communities in Schools of Rome-Floyd County, Inc. had heard her story and he was looking for a unique perspective to fill a spot on his Board. “I sent him my resume and I did not think he would consider me. Then, Ms. Perkins and Mr. Wooten called me and I was so excited that I was chosen to be on the Board. I could not believe it and I am so honored to serve on the Board for Communities in Schools. PLC has meant so much to me and I am so glad to help shape the future of what they offer students needing extra help to graduate.”
“She will be providing direction for Board activities,” explained Wooten. “We work with many schools in our community, not just the PLC, so she will be able to add so much by being a former student. When I signed on as ED, my main objective was to find a former student and get their input. I feel like it all comes full circle if we can use her experiences to develop new programs. Ms. Perkins and Ms. Veal said that she would be perfect because she was such a great student and because she is still doing great things after graduation.”
“Diana was one of those kids who left a lasting impression on me,” said Gail Veal who serves as PLC Coordinator. “I started out with her in Pre-K at West Central Elementary at the age of four. Diana was extremely sweet, very smart and wise at an early age. It was a privilege to have her join the PLC family for her last year of high school.
“She was focused and worked hard in her studies at the PLC and she was nominated student of the month by her teachers several times,” Veal continued. “As a young expecting mom, she was a little unsure of things. But I tried to help her get prepared in many ways. Diana needed a job after completing her requirements and I reached out to one of our AKA mentors and received information on what we needed to do to apply for a position at the Coosa Valley Credit Union. It has been a joy to watch her mature and become a wonderful mom to her son. I am so proud of her and her accomplishment and I welcome her and her fresh ideas with open arms to our Communities in School Board.”
“There are not very many service organizations tasked with improving the educational experiences of students that can say they have a former student on their Board,” said Jennifer Perkins. “It is not like it was that long ago and I think about her all of the time. I want her to come back and speak to our students about what life is like after the PLC. I go to the Credit Union on Fridays, and I am always so excited to see her. She is wonderful at what she does and she always has a smile on her face. The other day she shared a picture of Nicholas, her son, with me and he is now in Pre-K at West Central. When we talk about family, she really is a part of our family. And now her son is part of our RCS family as well.”
“First of all, I want to congratulate Diana and it is wonderful to hear about all of the wonderful things she has achieved,” said Superintendent Louis Byars. “It shows that we are doing the right things by helping our student start their lives with a solid educational foundation. We are also glad to have her on the Board for Communities and Schools. We plan to listen to her feedback, which is invaluable. We are proud to say she has been a part of this program and I know she will help us to better serve our students.”